I've decided to put my nursing schooling on pause. I'm withdrawing for the semester, and I'm spending the next several months working to become the person I want to be.
Last semester was great. I love the curriculum, though I don't necessarily love having it be 90% self-"taught" (aka reading 300 pages a week). I have never been more interested in my studies. I love the majority of my instructors and, most surprisingly, my peers; for the first time I have discovered that there exists a subset of women with whom I actually get along, and the few guys in the program are great too. Everybody is super-helpful and encouraging, and I'm not sure I would have succeeded last semester without the group support (mainly, a FB page designed to inform/organize the whole class).
So what's the problem? Me. I never should have gone back this semester. My surgery was the 16th week of the fall semester -- the last week of classes, the week before the final. I didn't actually finish making up everything until a week before the spring semester, due to the health complications and the second surgery. Which means I bought my textbooks late (the list of which was only released three weeks before class -- go figure; and the copies available o borrow from the school were the previous editions). Which means I didn't get a head start on reading, or study my notes, or have any time to organize myself.
Despite all of the above, I did well... for a while.
For the first month. Sure, my car is a fucking disgusting mess; my room and soon-to-be living room both need a huge overhaul; I had no muscle strength left and no self-esteem due to my deflated body caused by rapid weight loss.
And I was relishing in the success of my antidepressants, but the minute the stress of the semester set in I had that same downward spiral accompanied by an intense suicidal urge. But I got through it... for two weeks. And then I failed the first make-up quiz, which was not at all on par with the multiple choice original. And then I went to Genericon and saw ghosts of my past self/previous life everywhere and realized that I've lost touch with that person I used to be. Even more than that, I finally saw how incapable I was of buckling down, hitting the books hard, going to open lab every week... it just wasn't going to happen, and in all likeliness I was going to fail my CPE for some small infraction.
So that Monday I spent in bed, sobbing. Alex yelled at me. "What the fuck does this accomplish? Get the fuck up! Go do some chores! Stop wasting your day! You skip class for this?!" etc. I didn't have any good answers; I just wanted to be left alone for a few hours to think and wallow. Eventually I came to a few conclusions.
I told myself for years that if I ever truly reached the point of suicidal ideation where the option genuinely began to seem like a realistic next step, I would instead stop giving a fuck and do something radical. Travel. Sell my shit. Quit my job. Whatever it might take; whatever would take the least energy and still get me the furthest away from the life I was living. So I pondered these options. Move down south, like I've always wanted. Travel second or third world countries for dirt cheap. Break up with Alex, quit my job, join the Coast Guard, commit myself to a mental institution, become a monk, work in a hospital, get a dog, couch-surf across the country, etc. Any vague thought that was contrary to my current life, I considered. Most tempting was the "get as far away as geographically possible", but I had neither a passport nor the energy. And I felt that I was overlooking things. What did I want out of life? What would make me happy, help me reach self-actualization, contribute to that ideal?
Being me again. Who was I? I was social and funny and outgoing and reasonably athletic. I had interests and hobbies and passions. I was smart and awkward and interested in learning. None of those things were true anymore; depression dulls the senses, creates a zombified foggy-headedness akin to compulsively popping sedatives, strips a person of every characteristic one associates with "being alive" or "feeling happy" that may have existed before. Instead, I was lazy, unhealthy, devoid of personality. I was falling behind on literally everything, including bills and doctor appointments. I had no interests, and I had no interest in taking interest in anything, which is worse than simply having none. I had literally zero actual friends, having burned dozens of bridges over the past several years -- which I don't regret in the least, but normally those voids would have been filled by other friends, strangers, and/or acquaintances to whom I would have naturally grown closer. And when I really thought about it I didn't blame Alex for resenting me; I simply wasn't the person he had fallen for anymore.
I drafted a list of items I'd change. I realized, for instance, that it had been years since I had read a book, despite owning probably a thousand and in the past reading ~80 books a year. I ran book sales and volunteered and/or worked at a fucking library for literally years, but nowadays I usually couldn't focus long enough to finish a TV episode let alone a novel. Not to mention I had allowed my library membership to lapse with huge fines... the library copy of Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" still sits in the backseat of my car, as it has for more than a year and a half; I still haven't read it. So I looked at my huge pile of "to-read" books and grabbed the one that interested me and fucking finished it. I enjoyed it, but goddamn my reading skills have fallen. Too often would I zone out and have no recollection of a page I had just read.
So that was a start. Next, I went to the goddamned gym. Every day. I realized that my surgery had given me a cheat code to rapid weight loss. Sure, it was a double-edged sword, but if I didn't take advantage of it I would be worse off than being thirty pounds heavier. I'm not technically allowed to exercise yet, so I did what I could do: I walked and did yoga, Pilates, and Zumba classes. I had lost most of my strength and flexibility over those two/three months, but over the past week or two I've gained most of it back. Funny how little effort is required to inspire physical change. Anyway the extra bonus of this was the mindfulness/meditation it provided, which I was sorely lacking (as judged by my chronic hypertension over the past year). For the first time in a long time I had a pulse below 90 and a BP within normal range. I knew that my meds gave me anxiety, but man, clearly there was a lot more going on there. (I still might get some anti-anxiety meds, but I digress.)
I cleaned. I cleaned my room some, did some laundry, folded some laundry, picked up my bathroom. That was more than I had accomplished in months, but I still had a long way to go.
As for the Alex situation, it was small things. I dressed up some. And I put a lot of effort back into my sex life, which I hadn't even realized I had been neglecting. I tried to just be more physical in general, such as cuddling while watching TV, taking showers together, working out together, etc. And I tried to have a motherfucking personality again... still working on that one though.
But school. Giving up on school, which is essentially what I had chosen, was the catalyst to allowing all of this change to occur. I decided that I would try to do my CPE and if I failed -- which I did -- I would eat my free pancakes at IHOP and start on this new quest. This decision felt like it removed the weight of a large elephant from my shoulders. For the first time in a long time, I could take a deep breath. My stress level went down by 95%. I could imagine things to do without stressing about what I was neglecting academically. I suddenly felt like I had a future again, which is ironic considering withdrawing from college usually signifies giving up on your future. But I'm not giving up on nursing. I'm honestly going to take this time to do independent study -- actually reading all those effing textbooks and stuff -- until I figure out where to go from here; until I return to nursing school somewhere. Maybe at HVCC, maybe not. The uncertainty more than terrifies me, especially financially, but those thoughts in my head that had been developing over the past couple of months scared me more.
My previous plan was to finish school, pass the RN exam, move out, get a job as a nurse, move south, do further online schooling to get my BS/MS, and go from there. Now, my plan is to fucking live again, and then I'll figure out the living situation and the path I'll take to become a nurse. Definitely not giving up on the only career I've been passionate about, just... postponing it.
Alex is not happy, as you can imagine. He reminds me constantly that I failed a previous semester, but that was due to being unmedicated; this is due to being as highly medicated as possible and being too stressed from school/recovery/life to keep living as I was. He thinks I'm weak and lazy. I don't know, maybe that's true, but I hope it won't be by the end of this. He does appreciate the changes he's been seeing of course, he just thinks they won't last; he's worried I'm throwing away my future, and he hopes that I'm not selfishly chaining us to this living situation for an extra year... "or longer".
I have embraced a few philosophies. I need to treat myself the way I would a close friend -- with high standards, but laced with understanding and empathy rather than ridicule and anger. If a friend came to me with this situation, what would I recommend? How would I comfort them? We judge strangers by their actions and ourselves/close friends by thoughts/intentions, and I need to focus on myself in a constructive, supporting manner. Doing otherwise is futile.
I'm obviously not happy with myself. What makes it worse is that looking back I don't see anything I could have done differently considering my capabilities at the time, save not enrolling in the spring semester in the first place (which I was considering in light of the second surgical recovery). But I certainly would not have treated that theoretical wasted time so productively or constructively had I not re-enrolled, so I am somewhat thankful for this turn of events... I just wish I had been stronger and could have waited until May. I wish I had been able to study notes and read textbooks and watch instructional videos and take practice quizzes and spend time in open lab and attend class, but I could hardly shower or fold clothing or make an important phone call like a normal, functional person, so all those extraneous activities seemed so far out of reach.
Anyway. The future looks bleak but feels bright, which is all that matters right now. I feel more like me. Sure, I'm still shaking off the depression, but overall I feel better than I have in years. And I actually have the urge/motivation to learn and do things again, which makes me hopeful that I can continue this productivity through the next several months... through however long it takes to get back on track.